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Termite Inspections: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

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Author Icon By Brenda Woods Updated 02/06/2024

Termites are some of the most destructive household pests on earth, causing billions of dollars of property damage every year. Since they make their nests either deep in your home’s structure or underground, they can be hard to find and treat. If you suspect you have a termite issue, you should contact a professional pest control company as soon as possible.

The best way to limit termite damage and the amount you pay for repairs is a termite inspection. Many pest control companies perform your first termite inspection for free, unless it’s part of a real estate transaction. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about termite inspections, including cost, how you can prepare, and what inspectors look for.


Termite Inspection Cost

Many pest control specialists, such as Terminix and Orkin, offer free termite inspections to determine whether your home has an active infestation. Customers who schedule a termite inspection as part of the loan process for a real estate transaction may need to obtain a termite letter from the pest control company, which usually costs $100–$200, according to Terminix. Otherwise, you can expect to pay between $75 and $325 with a national average of $100.


Here are a few signs that you may have a termite infestation: 
Drywall discoloration 
Live termites around your home’s structure
Mud tubes
Pinholes in drywall 
Shed termite wings
Squeaky floorboards
Termite droppings around your home’s structure
Visibly damaged wood on your home 

If you notice any of the signs above and cannot otherwise explain their cause, we recommend scheduling a termite inspection. Your pest control specialist will investigate each sign of termite activity to confirm the cause and prescribe a treatment plan. We’ve researched the termite inspection process to let you know what you can expect.


The Termite Inspection Process

First, you will schedule a termite inspection with your chosen company either online or over the phone. Set up a time with a licensed technician, keeping in mind that you’ll have to be home to give them access to your house, garage, and any other structures you would like inspected.

QUICK Tip
Some companies don’t require any prep before they arrive at your house, but others like you to take several measures to get ready. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the technician can access any key areas—primarily your attic, sink, garage, and crawl space, if you have one. Be sure to clear obstructions from your attic, remove items blocking expansion joints in your garage, and move anything that limits access to your crawl space or the space under your sink.

Your technician will inspect your home’s interior and exterior, searching for tell-tale signs of termite activity and infestations, like mud tubes and shed wings. They’ll search high and low for evidence of both subterranean and drywood termites. The time this takes will depend on your property size and how accessible your woodwork is, but in general, it takes about 45 minutes, according to a Terminix representative.

After the inspection is wrapped up, the technician will break down what they found, outline how they can help eliminate the insects, and give you a quote for treatment if you need it.


What Termite Inspectors Look For

You may be able to spot some signs of a termite infestation yourself. Unfortunately, you often can’t tell termites are in your home until they’ve already wreaked havoc on your woodwork. That’s why termite inspections are so critical—not all of the following signs may be present, or they may not be readily visible.

Mud Tubes

Subterranean termites create mud tubes, their very own superhighways that connect their nests to the wood they feast on. These narrow passageways are about the width of a pencil and are made up of wood and soil. Termites build these mud tubes for several reasons. They connect the wood to their nest in the soil, shield the termites from predators, and keep the insects themselves from getting dehydrated.

Mud tubes are a definite sign of subterranean termites, but the absence of them doesn’t necessarily mean you’re termite-free. You could still have subterranean termites, and drywood termites don’t make mud tubes.

Wood Damage

If you knock your wood and it sounds hollow, it’s a likely sign of termite activity. Termites do serious damage to your wood’s structural joists, leaving them hollow and unable to provide the support the house needs. You can inspect the wood with a screwdriver, pressing firmly against the surface of the wood to expose hidden tunnels. Subterranean termites have a distinct style, always creating tunnels parallel to the grain of the wood.

Evidence of Swarms

When the weather starts to warm up and the current nest is overcrowded, subterranean termites swarm to go off and develop a brand new colony. You might see the swarm itself, or you might see the discarded wings left behind after the termites have found their new home. Since swarming termites are attracted to light, piles of wings are often found near light fixtures or windows.

Frass

Frass is a fancy way of saying termite droppings. Frass is made up of very small, granular pellets shaped like ovals. They may also look like wood shavings. If termites are present, you’ll often find frass by baseboards, door frames, and windowsills.

Bubbling Paint

If you have subterranean termites, your paint may bubble or peel. Termites damage drywall, which allows moisture and air to get between the paint and the surface. The moisture below the painted surface can start buckling as a result.

Keep in mind that your paint may bubble up for different reasons, so it’s not a definitive sign of termite activity.

Live Termites

Live termites are notoriously difficult to spot outside of a swarm. If you’re unlucky enough to spot one in your home, make sure you can tell it apart from an ant. Subterranean termites are made up of three distinct groups: workers, soldiers, and reproductive swarmers. All of these groups creamy white bodies. The main difference between them is that the swarmers have wings, making them look like flying ants.

To tell the difference between termites and ants, look at their wings, antennae, and bodies.

TermitesFlying Ants
WingsTwo pairs, both the same lengthTwo pairs, front wings longer than hind wings
AntennaeStraightBent, have “elbows”
BodyStraight waistTapered waist

In addition to your garage, attic, and crawl space, there are several other important places to evaluate closely for signs of termites—notably, anything made of wood.

Outdoor wooden structures, like a deck, shed, carport, or arbor, can be vulnerable to termites. If you didn’t use termite-resistant products during construction, you should be extra wary.

If termites find their way to your wooden fencing, they can start munching on it and eventually follow the trail to your home.

Cracks in expansion joints and bricks are common entryways for termites.

Fallen tree branches in your yard can easily attract termite activity, which may then move to your home. Dispose of any tree limbs to keep your property safe.

Keep firewood stacks no closer than 20 feet from your house and be sure to elevate them off the ground.

Wood mulch around your home can provide termites with both food and shelter. If you’re concerned about termites, consider an alternate type of mulch like pebbles or recycled rubber.


Calling in Professional Termite Inspectors

When it comes time for a termite inspection, choose a pest control company that has plenty of experience in finding and exterminating termites. Highly trained technicians will provide the most thorough inspections and most effective treatments. Unfortunately, getting rid of termites is usually not a DIY job.

Orkin and Terminix offer free termite inspections to new customers. Each company performs thorough inspections of all cracks and crevices and common entry points. If you have termites, they will give you a treatment plan and detailed written report, and they’ll schedule follow-up inspections afterward to ensure your home stays termite-free.


Frequently Asked Questions About Termite Inspections

Will termites damage pressure-treated wood?

Pressure-treated wood is termite-resistant but can still sustain damage from termites, especially as it ages.

How hard is it to get rid of termites?

Termites are notoriously difficult to control, often requiring professional treatment to completely eliminate. It’s often not a DIY job. Pest control specialists also provide preventative treatments and termite monitoring.

What attracts termites?

Termites are attracted to the wood they eat and areas of your home that trap moisture. Some types of termites prefer dry wood, while others predominantly eat wood that is wet or rotting.


Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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